History

Acadia was first colonized by the French in 1604. It was mainly Poitevins and Basques who set sail for the new continent. After a long struggle with England, France signed a treaty in 1713 giving it jurisdiction over Île-Saint-Jean (Prince Edward Island), where it established a permanent colony in 1720, and Île Royale (Cape Breton Island). Continental Nova Scotia then fell under British control. Many Acadians refused to pledge allegiance to England, which decided in 1755 to put an end to this passive resistance. Deportation followed. The 7,000 or so Acadian inhabitants of the area were forced to migrate to the American colonies. Some took refuge in what was left of New France, many going to Prince Edward Island.

In 1758, the siege of the Fortress of Louisbourg led to the loss of Île-Saint-Jean to the British, which deported some 3,000 Acadians on the Island to France. Nearly 2,000 Acadians managed to escape deportation by hiding in New Brunswick. Beginning in 1763, following the signing of the Treaty of Paris, some of these families moved back to the Island. Their former land now occupied by British inhabitants, they cleared new land elsewhere on the Island and established new communities.

British since 1763, the Island became largely Anglophone. The Acadian community on the Island survived in scattered communities despite the distance separating them. By 1830, there were six Acadian schools and in 1854, there were 13. However, restrictive action by the province in the area of schooling after Confederation led to a loss of what had been gained. The Association des instituteurs acadiens de l'Île was created in 1893 to promote the teaching of French in public schools. The Société Saint-Thomas-d'Aquin (SSTA) supported it from its foundation in 1919 by raising funds to help educate Acadian children. In 1893, a newspaper named L'Impartial was established.

In the economic sphere, the Acadians on the Island first created agricultural organizations around 1898. Their focus then turned to organizing co-operatives, and in 1903, they established what has become one of the largest successful agricultural exhibitions on the Island. Fishing "unions" were created wherever there were Acadians. In 1861, the Banque des fermiers de Rustico was founded, and the Caisses populaires acadiennes emerged in the 1930s. Today, the Acadians on the Island take pride in the title "World Capital of Co-Operation."

Furthermore, in the area of recognition of rights and distinct culture, the Acadians of the Island are one of the fastest-growing minority communities in Canada. In the nineteenth century, not only did they elect the very first Acadian to the House of Commons and see one of their own appointed lieutenant-governor of a Canadian province (Joseph-Alphonse Bernard), but they also hosted the great Acadian National Convention in Miscouche in 1884. It was at this time that Acadians from all parts of the land adopted their national symbols: a flag, the melody of a national anthem, a crest and a motto. It was also in Miscouche in 1964 that they built their first Acadian museum and their Centre de recherche acadienne. Many years later, in 1994, French lyrics for the Acadian national anthem were written in Mont-Carmel.

In 2008, Prince Edward Island's Acadian and Francophone community counts on some 15 provincial organizations working in various sectors of the comprehensive development of this community and on a para-public agency: the Commission scolaire de langue française de l'Île-du-Prince-Édouard. In recent years, the Acadian and Francophone population on the Island has been organized around six school-community centres. These centres are essential for the development of the community, especially at the regional level. Acadians and Francophones are becoming increasingly conscious of the role these centres play in bringing Francophones together and spreading the culture, among both Francophones and Anglophones.